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skuppy2Zeche, Bochum, Germany
19th August 2005
The Fair Sex, Skinny Puppy

Sometimes legends tend to come back. In the year 2000, Skinny Puppy did with an unexpected single performance at the Doomsday festival in Dresden, Germany. In 2004 the legend came back once more, this time with a new album called “The Greater Wrong of the Right”, and an extensive North American tour and six shows in Europe. This year another tour through North America and Eurpe – with a lot more European dates this time – followed. After Skinny Puppy´s fabulous gig at the M´era Luna festival we also took the chance to see one of their club shows at the Zeche in Bochum. This is a nice opportunity to not only to review this particular show but also to rehash the history of this influential band.


The Fair Sex

The Fair Sex started in autumn 1984 with their five-people grasping original line-up (L´O - guitar, Myk - vocals, Blonder - keyboards, A. Bang - drums and Rascal - bass/vocals) which was consistent to the year 1988. First making real hand-made music, electronic elements soon entered the TFS-concept and were growing during the years. They sound of the band is very strong affected by the combination of guitars and Synth-sequences. Stylistic elements from EMB, Gothic, Wave and Rock are merging into the typical TFS-style. The first single "Divine Service" was released in 1987 on the Last Chance Records label and later in the early 1988 the band released their debut fulltime record "The House of Unkinds". Surprisingly and unexpected, A. Bang died in September 1988 during a gig. This incident marks a deep cut into the life and the creative process of TFS. But anyway they released the album "Demented Forms" in February 1989 like A. Bang wanted it. After that release a phase of new orientation and the search for a new identity started. It took until the year 1991 when the band - now only a quartet - came back with the album "Bite Release Bite". The early 90s mark an exciting and inspiring period for the band with a lot of releases and extensive live tours. In 1993 the band decides to take a break and concentrate on their Industrial-Metal project "Testify". During the year 1994, at least Myk and Rascal came back to TFS - in package the heavy double-CD epos "Labyrinth". A few live activities followed for which they hired a live crew. But anyway, the band split up in winter 1995/1996.
At the beginning of 1999 the four remaining members of the original line-up met again for the first time. The enthusiasm of the 80ies came back and so they decided for a re-union. In the following months, new material was recorded and a fresh concept was designed. On the 10th Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig, the band celebrated their comeback. After another gig in Glauchau the band worked determined on new material. In winter 2001/2002 "Testify"- guitarist Kullf joined the band and in March 2002 the MCD "Lost Traces from the far Side" was released. It was the first release on the new formed label Endless Records. Several concerts followed. Finally, the new album "TFS" was released in August 2002 and was supported on the "Legends United" tour together with "Psyche" and "The Invincible Spirit". Summer 2003 saw the release of the first part of their best of compilation "Thin Walls - Part I". Several festival gigs with an extended live crew (Lawrence - guitar, Lydia - bass) followed. In 2004, TFS started collaboration with "The Invincible Spirit" under the name "The Invincible Sex" and released an E.P. Also the second part of their best of compilation "Thin Walls - Part II" was released. And now they are back on stage together with another legend.

A signboard at the doors of the club warned that artificial blood and other dubious substances will be used during the show and that the club will give no warranty for damages or soilings. Hah! The queuing Skinny Puppy fans came to see artificial blood and dubious things. ;-)
Anyway, first it was time for tonight’s opening act, The Fair Sex. The band around vocalist Myk Jung is itself a German Electro/Goth legend that has left its mark on the German underground scene since 1984 with hits like “No Excuse” or “Not Now Not Here”. The Fair Sex entered the stage and front man Myk just stated laconically “We thought Skinny Puppy could do with a support here in Bochum, so we volunteered” – and then hell break lose! They started with “Cyberbite” from their 1994 album “Labyrinth” and a nice best of-set followed.

During the set, Rascal – now very successful with his own project “Rotersand” – joined the band on stage. Together with Myk he was intoning all the big hits of the band, supported by a decent light show and well added smoke. To my surprise the Zeche was still rather empty when The Fair Sex started their show and I already feared that it may be not too packed as well when Skinny Puppy will be on, especially since there were rumours that Skinny Puppy’s club show in Munich was far from sold out. But during The Fair Sex´s gig the place was more and more flooded with people so that it was after all full like bursting! The Fair Sex went down well and did a good job to heat up the fans. After all, many old fans discovered Skinny Puppy and The Fair Sex at the same time - in the late 80s or early 90s. But a sense of anxiety and anticipation was in the air, and this was for Skinny Puppy!

01. Intro
02. Cyberbite
03. No Excuse
04. The House of Unkinds
05. Not Now. Not Here
06. Shelter
07. Soulspirit
08. The Pain that no one knows

Music: 8
Performance: 9
Sound: 9
Light: 7
Total: 8 (8.3)

Skinny Puppy

The origins of Skinny Puppy began in Vancouver in the summer of 1983 when cEvin Key (distorted synths, metallic percussion) and Nivek Ogre (vocals, horn treatments) decided to form a mutual musical project. Key and Ogre shared a combined dislike for common-pop chords and a mutual taste for bizarre, inconceivable songs and rhythms. They have been a firm advocate for change through their uncompromising challenge to the mainstream, musically, visually, mentally, and psychologically. cEvin Key  and Nivek Ogre both had an unusual partiality for diverse song arrangement. Key and Ogre initially enlisted another visionary, Wilhelm Schroeder aka Bill Leeb. But Leeb's own pursuits led him to quit and eventually form “Front Line Assembly”.
By early 1985, Skinny Puppy released “Remission” featuring Key, Ogre, Wilhelm Schroeder (bass synth) and Mr. D. Plevin (fretless bass). In October 1985, the album “Bites” was released which expanded on the line-up from “Remission” with the addition of Tom T. Ellard (tapes, treatments, digital sampling). Skinny Puppy was soon becoming famous for their industrial edge and stage personna with gloomy gothic atmospherics often accompanied by disturbing film footage as a backdrop. In early 1986, Dwayne R. Goettel joined the band during the recording of “Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse” which was followed by the first full-length Skinny Puppy tour that also included some European dates for the first time.
With the following releases, all of them steered and guided by long-time producer David Ogilvie, Skinny Puppy strengthened their status, perfected their sonic and visual expressions and sustained their reputation as an outstanding live act with persistent touring. Oddly enough the touring headed to Europe only a second time, with the “Vivisect VI” tour in 1988. More European tours were announced after that but were always cancelled due to various reasons, from drug problems of band members (and subsequent health problems) to the unpretentious fact that the costs to ship the enormous band equipment and stage design was far too expensive. It took the band 12 years to come back to Europe, and in the years inbetween there was no hope that they would came back at all!

The - at that time - quite prolific and ever-evolving output of Skinny Puppy featured works as the creepy horror-film ambience of “Cleanse Fold And Manipulate” album (1987), the medical horrors of “VIVIsectVI” (1988), the extrovert and guitar-driven “Rabies” to the environmental mutation of “Too Dark Park” (1990) and the claustrophobic introversion of “Last Rights” (1992) as well as numerous singles like the hit singles “Testure” and “Warlock” or the conroversial “Censor (Dogshit)”.
After their 1992 North American tour for the “Last Rights” album, and after the fulfillment of their contract with Nettwerk Records, the band decided to become free agents and entertain offers from several major labels. They eventually agreed to sign to American Recordings - a move that would eventually see chaos and tragedy fracture and ultimately decimate the band.
In 1995 Skinny Puppy broke up, prior to the release of their “final” album “The Process” and with three years full of internal problems and downright catastrophes behind them. Their studio burnt down, cEvin Key suffered serious injuries from an accident at a film set, an enduring brawl with their then record label, American Recordings, including repeated exchange of producers – the list of problems the band had to face seemed endless. It culminated in the biggest tragedy of it all when Dwayne R. Goettel sadly died of a heroine overdose on Auguts 23rd 1995.
The legendary comeback show at the Doomsday festival in Dresden, Germany, in August 2000 surprised fans and press alike, and for the band it was a glorious comeback. After five years of silence around Skinny Puppy this single show feeded the hope that the future will see more Skinny Puppy, and all hopes have been fulfilled – although fans had to wait some time. The year 2004 saw eventually the release of a brand new Skinny Puppy album, “The Greater Wrong of the Right”. With this first album of a new Skinny Puppy era the band made a comeback that could hardly have turned out more consistent or more convincing! Key, Ogre and new collaborator Mark Walk are at the top of the game again and managed to put the band’s imitators in their place. To be fair it has to be mentioned that a few long-time fans felt alienated by the new album as it was more accessible, more melodic and sometimes even pretty club-orientated. The single off-spin “Pro-Test” even featured raps by Ogre himself and was accompanied by a video clip that featured breakdancing Goth kids! Anyway, “The Greater Wrong of the Right” had all the typical Skinny Puppy ingredients, just mixed up in a new fashion, and also broke new ground from the band´s perspective. A bodacious and succesful world tour followed which prolonged into the year 2005 and, fortunately, some more European dates.

Music and Performance
The intro “Rain” started, combined with excerpts from a speech by George W. Bush, and the band entered the arena: cEvin Key behind his myriads of synths and computers on the right and guitar-player William Morrison and Drummer Jason Bennet, who both complete the live line-up since 2004, on the left. The place in the middle was yet empty. With the first bars of the 15 years old “Tormentor” the master of ceremonies jumped on stage – Nivek Ogre! Of course he wore his now infamous birdlike mask, which actually looked worn after months and months of touring, and already covered in some sort of slobber and bloodlike matters. This man has such a presence and energy – and his very own style of stage-acting – that is simply unbelievable. For me it was the first time that I witnessed Skinny Puppy at a small club – after three festival shows – and a certain difference was noticeable. The intensity of the performance was enourmous and to see Ogre so close made it even more spectacular.
With “I´mmortal” and “Pro-Test” the only two songs off “The Greater Wrong of the Right” followed, and although many old fans seem to have their complaints about the new material both tracks went down brilliantly and made everybody jump up and down like hell. Again, the songs were accompanied by video screenings, which ranged from psychedelic effects to quite clear and drastic political statements. During “VX Gas Attack”, taken from 1989´s “Vivisect VI”, the screen displayed altering images of George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler, marching Wehrmacht soldiers, film footage from the last Gulf War and at the end the Stars & Stripes flag where the stars where substituted with swastikas. Well, that was a rather clear statement!
Meanwhile, Ogre enjoyed playing around with nauseating fluids. “(God´s Gift) Maggot” saw Ogre squeezing pads drenched with artificial blood over his head (and some people learned that the blood had raspberry flavour when Ogre threw the pads into the audience, hehe). Then he stirred some yellow-ish, pasty substance in a gas mask and I don´t want to know what this was meant to illustrate! Of course the audience got their fair share of the yellow-ish paste, as well. The list of strange substances could be continued (hey, we even got a taste of the blood gun!) but I don´t want to give the impression that Skinny Puppy´s show would be some childish Shock Rock-show with lots of visual and special effects just for the sake of it. The performance actually had some kind of theme. Beyond the obvious, the political criticism of the Bush government and its actions, there seems to be a more basic theme: War. Thus it was an anti-war show, with the latest “blood for oil” wars of Mr. Bush and the “war against terror”as the most current and quite startling examples. Just as with the animal rights topic they often used (also visually) in the past, Skinny Puppy chose the most shocking, most radical and most arousing stylistic devices to make people think. Somehow it is ironic that at a show like this people at the front were partying and dancing like mad - but I guess the show did have an impact on everyone. The fact that you dance your ass of and have a good time doesn´t necessarily mean that you switched of your brain, right?

In the middle of the set the crowd pleaser “Warlock” provided hysteria in the audience and after this gloomy anthem Skinny Puppy forced the pace. “Hexonxonx”, an album track from 1989´s “Rabies”, brought back the “blood for oil” theme with Ogre wearing a Marine helmet and whizzing a fuel nozzle at the end of a long tube. “Tin Omen” delivered more Gulf war projections and especially the high-speed end of the song left the mosh pit breathless. After “Spasmolytic” and “Hardset Head” the audience would have deserved a break with a slow song but the band chose to give us “Smothered Hope”. Unfortunately at the last shows of the tour “Harsh Stone White” had been left out, and while this is not only one of Skinny Puppy´s finest this slow-tempo song would have been welcomed by the exhausted audience as some breathing time. Anyway, the classic “Smothered Hope” was of course another crowd pleaser and somehow the climax of the show. The band left the stage and eruptive applause and cheering made them return for a two-song encore. “Rodent” was a live rarity for all die-hard fans, followed by the popular “Testure” – without shocking videos of tortured and caged test animals, as on past tours.
An impressive, awe-inspiring event left the audience sweaty, bushed and stunned. Skinny Puppy proved once again that they are one of the best live acts around. Rumours say that they might return on stage in 2006, and I can only hope so!

01. Rain (intro)
02. Tormentor
03. I'm Mortal
04. Pro-Test
05. Curcible
06. God's Gift (Maggot)
07. VX Gas Attack
08. Worlock
09. (deep down) Trauma Hounds
10. Hexonxonx
11. Tin Omen
12. Spasmolytic
13. Hardset Head
14. Smothered Hope
15. Rodent
16. Testure

Music: 10
Performance: 10
Sound: 9
Light: 9
Total: 10 (9.7)

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